Berto: 'I will continue proving myself'
For most fighters, the chance to prove oneself against a future Hall of Famer isn't something that happens every day. Andre Berto had that opportunity, but the sudden call to help his Haitian countrymen in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake weighed more heavily, and his fight against former champion Shane Mosley was postponed indefinitely, sending Berto into a stretch of second-rate fights. Those days are over as Berto (27-0, 21 KOs) is set to put his unbeaten record and welterweight title on the line against the ultra-tough Victor Ortiz (28-2-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. (HBO Boxing, 9:45 ET). Here's what Berto had to say about this fight and his future.
What can you tell us about your training for this fight?
Training has been good. We've had some tremendous sparring. I had some really strong guys come in, and it's been very intense. It's probably been one of the most intense training camps I've had. I am definitely prepared and feeling good, ready to go.
Have you made any adjustments to prepare for Ortiz's southpaw stance?
Definitely. I've fought a few southpaws lately. In fact, three of my last four opponents [Carlos Quintana, Juan Urango and Luis Collazo] have been southpaws, and I've had some great sparring to get ready for this. I'm ready to do it.
Do you think a victory over Ortiz will earn you the recognition you need right now?
Definitely. Victor is a strong, hungry kid that has speed and power, and he has a good chin too. After all the fights that didn't get made, he stepped up to the plate and took our offer. He can punch, I can punch. He's hungry, I'm hungry. He's been in there with [Nate] Campbell and [Marcos] Maidana, so I'm preparing for a tough fight. Ortiz is tough. He's had a few tough fights, so ... he will come in good shape and he is going to come ready to fight. He took a lot of criticism, and he has a lot of doubters, and this is going to be a great opportunity for him to redeem himself, so I'll have to stay focused.
You're right behind the Big Three of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley at 147 pounds. What would it take for you to break into that group? Would a victory over Ortiz do it?
I just need an opportunity. If I just keep doing what I'm doing and I beat Victor Ortiz in a good performance and then I continue to improve my game and I stay unbeaten, and if I continue knocking guys out, then all I will need is an opportunity. If one of those guys wants to fight with me, they know what to do. So I will have to be consistent and just continue winning.
Other than someone in the Big Three, which opponent would bring you the recognition you want?
Right now, I believe Ortiz is that guy, and all that matters is to continue winning in impressive fashion. I'll have bigger fights to come, but right now I believe I have to continue showing my best skills to the boxing public.
How do you respond to criticism that you are overprotected by HBO?
You know, boxing fans are never happy unless you fight the best right now. They can say whatever they want to say, but I will continue proving myself. I fought some of the best competition out there -- guys like David Estrada and Carlos Quintana, who beat Paul Williams, and some fighters of that caliber. But I understand that everybody has great expectations for me, and they want to see me fight the best. And I don't think they'll be satisfied until I am in there with a Shane Mosley or a Mayweather or Pacquiao. And I believe this speaks a lot to the expectations that I generate with my style.
On the flip side of that, how do you feel about what happened after your trip to Haiti? You missed a great opportunity to fight Mosley, yet it seems you never got the proper credit for that act of selflessness.
I believe everything happens for a reason. The opportunity was there, but other things were happening and we had to take a different route. But my opportunity will come back; it's just a matter of continuing doing what I do, and just continue winning.
Some observers seem to think they have your number, that they have your style all figured out. Is there anything new that we're going to see from you in this fight?
A lot of people think that. They see a few things repeated from one fight to the other, and they think they have me figured out and they know how to beat me. And then when they are in front of me and taste my speed and my power, they know they are in a completely different situation. I continue learning different things and I bring them into my fights little by little, showing different new things every time I get in the ring.
How do you see the fight unfolding Saturday night?
I am not sure. We're going to try different things, we're going to see what he brings and what mistakes he makes that we can use in our favor, and go from there. And if the opportunity comes, I will try to knock him out.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.